Danilo Gallinari May Need Back Surgery

The Knicks announced that rookie forward Danilo Gallinari will be travelling to Italy on Tuesday to see back specialists. He saw doctors in New York on Monday and his trip to the home country is the next step in the team's quest to make sure he's 100 percent in time for the start of next season. That may mean surgery, although nothing is for certain at this point in time.

Gallinari's back has been a problem since July, and he's been playing at less than full speed since then. Figuring out what kind of remedies are available for his back is vitally important for a team that is already short on building blocks for the future. Losing him for the last 16 games of this season isn't nearly as damaging as waiting to see how his condition reacts to rest.

The thought of surgery is a chilling one for a 20-year-old. Anyone who saw the final years of Larry Bird, to whom G.M. Donnie Walsh compared Gallinari recently, or Larry Johnson knows how much back problems can take away from a player. Both of those guys got a lot deeper into their careers than Gallinari before their back problems started, however, and this may not be something that the youngster can ever truly escape.

That's a lot of question marks for a player who wasn't exactly a known commodity when he came to the Knicks. The skills he flashed -- good shooting touch, hustle and defensive insticts -- speak well for his future, but he never showed a tremendous amount of athleticism. Maybe that's because his back was hurt and maybe it can be repaired, but that's a lot more maybes than you'd like to see from the sixth overall pick less than a year into his career.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.

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